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Dh and MIl speaking language in front of me in my own home - Page 3

post #41 of 56
One more perspective, not that you really need any more...

I have a weird multicultural situation where I speak one language, DH speaks a different language, and the language we have in common is English. We are both immigrants to the US and met here. And we now have children and two sets of grandparents who visit us from abroad and bring their languages with them.

We both put up with the other language being spoken in front of us without complaint because we know next time the roles will be reversed. For me it feels artificial and a bit distant to speak to my parents in English--even though I have been in the US for so long that I feel much more comfortable with English and end up sprinkling English in anyway. When MIL/FIL are here, I tune out a lot and frequently escape to a different room or just do my own thing. DH does the same when my parents are here, but I think he has it worse because we use enough English that we forget what we said in English and what we said in the other language and assume that he knows everything we talked about--but frequently all he would catch is something like blah-blah-blah [name of restaurant] blah blah blah. And then we wonder why he's not ready to leave for dinner in 5 minutes as "we" discussed.

Anyway--having been on both sides I just wanted to validate what everyone has said on both sides in this thread, it's all true. Have no answer, except feel free to be "rude" and tune them out and do your own thing. I'm glad MIL apologized and maybe she'll be more conscious about it from now on.
post #42 of 56
If they want a private conversation, they should go somewhere else.

I think your best bet is to ask "what does xyz mean?" about every.single.sentence.

MIL: pera pera pera pera*
You: What did you just say?
dh: pera pera pera pera
You: what does that mean in English?

Either you'll learn some Tamil, or they'll start speaking English in front of you.

(*just to reassure people I'm not making fun of Tamil, "pera" is the sound effect in Japanese for someone speaking English.)

ETA: http://www.livemocha.com/ has Tamil as an option. Since you can already read phonetically, you should be able to make good use of that program.

EATA: Oh, good! I'm glad your MIL and dh are being polite. Hopefully it sticks!
post #43 of 56
To the OP, I am happy you were able to talk to you MIL about it and that she took it well!
It is a good thing that I speak some Arabic. It is not perfect but I can usually follow pretty well. If dh's family tells as joke and I miss the punch line I immediately ask them to translate.
As I said before I learned my husband’s language on my own.
Never rely on spouses to teach you a foreign language!
post #44 of 56
Is there any way to coax your husband to start speaking Tamil to your children now? Could your MIL side with you for that? It's never too late! My akka's eldest son (9) learned an incredible amount of Spanish (making phrases and whatnot) in a month just from hearing me speak it to DS. Kids are like sponges.

In our case DH found it natural to talk to DS in Tamil only, and the in-laws as well, and while I only understand toddler-level Tamil, sometimes that's more of a blessing than a problem . We do have relatives that assume they should speak English to DS but the fact that he doesn't really understand much English yet (I speak only Spanish to him) gets them to shift quickly. And they seem to find it amusing when I keep asking for the "real Tamil" word for things they're used to naming in English, like "clock" or "purple".

Best of lucks!
post #45 of 56
okay, first off, let me start by saying I totally, totally, totally get where you are coming from and how you are feeling OP, as my ILs do the same, being all perfectly competent in English but using Japanese together, wherever, in their homes, in ours, even when SIL was living with us, and it drove me crazy, seemed so rude, felt like an intentional insult, ALL of it. It really, really sucks to be in your position.
I think that what I didn`T get at first, and what a lot of people posting here don`t really see, is that it is really hard to change the language you use to communicate with your family, as much as it may seem like it to someone outside, it is not a conscious choice - you do not constantly say to yourself, "I will speak Japanese now," but rather what comes out is what comes out, on its own and determined, I swear, by a different, altogether more secretive part of the brain. In my case, the part of my brain that is trying to sabatoge my attempts to speak to dd in English.

it goies far far beyond one language being more intimate and one being more formal, and making a choice beyond that. I think that grumpy bear put it well, saying that it is about "what it represent between the two people communicating and relating to each other." And this, I think, may be something it is hard to understand if you do not have two languages in which you live your life, and with which you communicate with the most important peope in your life.

I don`t know if after three pages of comments it is worth saying, but I just think that it is important for the OP to understand that she is aking for something that is much more difficult than it seems on the face of it. While you feel that there is no excuse for this rude behavior, it is really not a deliberate insult and it is something that really is hard for your MIL and DH to change. You might be best off trying to appreciate that they are making the effort rather than getting frustrated when they slip back into Tamil (which, I should think, inevitably they will, without really realizing it).
my 2 cents, fwiw
post #46 of 56
We've had this issue in my family, too. My parents are accustomed to speaking Taiwanese to each other, and while they speak English just fine, it's natural and automatic to speak to each other as well as to me, in Taiwanese.

My sister in law had a major issue with this, and I can understand where she is coming from. However, for her, it was more of a problem that also had an underlying issue, which was that she didn't feel like she had their approval. She felt they were intentionally leaving her out, which wasn't the case at all. They would obviously speak English to her, and to my brother when she was around, but if they were just speaking to each other in another conversation, or saying something to my brother that didn't really concern her, they would revert back to Taiwanese. Yes, they speak English well, but not as well as their mother tongue, and they feel much more comfortable speaking in their mother tongue. I started reminding them because I knew she had a problem with it, and I think now they are conscious of it and don't do it anymore.

They are also trying to teach my kids Taiwanese, so when the whole family is together, it's awkward because my brother's kids don't understand it, but my kids sort of do.

My DH, OTOH, has no problem with my parents speaking any language they like in front of him, but he's just that way.

I totally identify with the OP and while it may not be intentional, it does make a person feel left out and frustrated. I hope that after the incident, things get better!
post #47 of 56
There have been so many thoughtful insights here! I do think it's difficult to rewire your brain and try to manipulate what is frequently an automatic response, similar to a reflex. But in a loving family, I can see people making the effort to make everyone more comfortable. And with the kids involved as well, it seems like they really need to make a committment on the language decision (to teach or not to teach) and follow through with their actions.

That said, I think it's also a little odd to ask that people use English because you're in the room. That's like asking them to assume you'll be eavesdropping! At the dinner table, in the car, in group settings when you're all doing things TOGETHER, yes I think that's a perfectly reasonable request. But just because they are in the room with you, doing something totally different, discussing something that in no way, shape, or form involves you? I think they might view that as a little self-centered and silly.

And, FWIW, my bilingual daughter is learning my husband's first language from ME. In fact, he has actually taught her some things WRONG! Yes, it definitely helps to have a native speaker help teach a language, but it's not necessary if you're really, really stubborn like me.
post #48 of 56
I've been on both sides of this issue. It SUCKS to not be included in a conversation ... but it also SUCKS to consciously think of what language you're speaking. I grew up in the US, but my first language is Russian, and that's what I speak with my mom. However, I speak English with my older brother, don't ask me why...it's just what feels more comfortable to me. We've lived here for 30 years, so it's not like my mom doesn't speak English...but it's just what I'm used to speaking with her. Sometimes my mom will speak English to me because she was just speaking to someone else in English and hasn't "switched over", and I find it so weird and uncomfortable to have a long discussion with her in English.
With my brother and SIL, they'll speak Russian to me, and I'll answer them in English mostly...I don't think we even think about what language we're speaking in. As far as teaching the kids the native tongue...it's not that easy! I had ALL the intentions of speaking strictly Russian to ds, but I just find it hard to do. He was a late talker, and when he finally said a few words in English, it was hard to talk to him in Russian and confuse him. Now my Mom mostly speaks Russian to him, but she'll mix in English words because he understands those. It's not from lack of desire to teach the children, as much as it's really more difficult than you'd think when you're actually trying to communicate something. My dh has also been trying to learn Russian (for 10 years before he met me) and can read it...but every time we try to speak Russian, we have only very short conversations...it's too frustrating for both of us. So, don't think your dh doesn't want you to learn Tamil; it's just hard to listen to someone else struggle in a language. I have in the past been on the other side of the coin when I dated someone who spoke a language different from any that I speak, and it is frustrating to not understand...so I get where you're coming from too. I would probably make more of an effort to learn Tamil with or without your dh's help. Good bonding time with your MIL if you ask her to spend 1/2 hour each day teaching you...just find some books to go over.
post #49 of 56
For us Americans, speaking a foreign language in front of others who don't understand is rude but that's not necessarily the case with other cultures.

I remember visiting China with a friend and her family is an amusing linguistic mix. The mom grew up in Shanghai but most of them live down in Canton (Guangzhou) so they were switching between those two dialects, standard Chinese (Mandarin) and English once in a while. I noticed that they spoke whatever in front of those who didn't speak it. For example, the boyfriend didn't understand Shanghainese but they would leap into a conversation regardless. Since I'm from S.F. and lived in Hong Kong at the time, I could distinguish (as opposed to understand) which was which. Whomever would strike up a conversation with me in English when the rest had switched. They'd once in awhile have a conversation with me in English with me and I noticed that it didn't seem to bother anyone else.

My French dh is bilingual. He speaks the German dialect spoken here and grew up speaking either to various family members. While he is more comfortable in French, often we visit or go out with people who are more comfortable in the dialect, especially since dh works in agriculture. Once, they were all babbling away and suddenly, one of them turned to me and said "Oh I forgot you don't speak Alsatian!" Amusing since I'm from America!

Once in California, I remember a Polish girl who had invited us to her house had her mom over visiting. She would hurry her mom into the kitchen to discuss anything. The mom's English was limited but the very idea that they would utter one word of Polish in front of us was not to even be debated. It was almost over-polite. Cultural standards...

While it's annoying to be left out, don't take it too personally. It's just a matter of standards and codes of politeness between cultures. If two Americans did that to me in another language, I'd find it super-rude but here, I almost expect it...
post #50 of 56
Sounds to be like better communication within the family would solve the problem. I would also highly encourage you to learn Tamil and also your child. I'm a bit puzzled why your hubby doesn't want your child to speak another language?

My MIL comes for looooong visits, 1-3 months, and we get along great. Extremely helpful and fantastic with the kids. She speak only Spanish and communication within the family would not be possible unless my kids and I spoke Spanish.

We live in Sweden so the language is naturally Swedish but we are raising our kids tri-lingually (English, Swedish, Spanish) and the kids now speak all three languages at age 4 and 6.5. Very easy to accomplish and a nice thing for the kids to know a few languages.

Like Eclipsepearl mention culture can also be very different. What's considered rude in one country is normal in another country. Trust me, we have many of these issues in my family:-)
post #51 of 56
I was always taught it is very rude to speak in a language that everyone does not understand (when there is a shared language that everyone DOES understand).
post #52 of 56
I know the OPs MIL is gone already, but i felt the need to add a perspective to the mix. My father is trilingual, with English as his 4th language. He came to the US as a teenager. When I was a teenager, he married a Central American woman who had been in the US for decades w 2 grown US-born kids (just to indicate that she was fluent in English). Conversations suddenly became private 24/7. Even mealtimes were conducted in Spanish, which I don't speak. It was very isolating. I told my father this repeatedly - everyone at the table spoke English, why couldn't we converse in English at the dinner table? He made no effort. And when her family members started living there, it just got worse (all spoke at least some English). Eventually I was completely isolated, and it has effected my relationship with my parents to this day.

To deliberately and knowingly isolate your spouse by refusing to include her in common conversation at all is rude, period. The OP never asked to be included at all times, but to be excluded at all times is beyond rude, and can do some serious damage to relationships. Not just between spouses, but also w the children.
post #53 of 56
that was the worst part of india for me. Maybe it is a cultural thing, b/c when i was there my dh would have hour long conversations with family and not once say anything to me about what they were talking about or anything. It made my brain ache literally and i told him a couple times about it but he just never got it. Just like he never got the idea of teaching me or ds hindi. Some of my il's could speak english but were all too shy to talk to me except for the 7 year old and my fil but it was awkward to not be in the conversations for a whole month. Now when we go back to india or if il's visit here ds is much older and he will be out of the loop too, so at least i'll have him to talk to...Just wanted to say i know how you feel..
post #54 of 56
Originally Posted by EarthMamaToBe View Post
I was always taught it is very rude to speak in a language that everyone does not understand (when there is a shared language that everyone DOES understand).
So was I but that's exactly what I was trying to explain.

In some cultures, it's NOT rude to speak another language or leave someone out of the conversation. In America, it's much easier because English is widely spoken and we don't have a situation where dialects and other languages are used within the same family or community very often.

The issue is leaving people out of the conversation. In America, it's impolite but in other cultures, it's not. This doesn't just deal with language.

Here in France, I'll be standing next to two moms in front of the school, waiting for our kids, and if they're in conversation, they wont include me. They wont even say hi until they're done. Then they would turn to me and happily include me in the next conversation...

Once, when I was working with a French crew, we had an American girl join us. She wasn't working in my area but then came to me in tears. Apparently, the French girls totally ignored her and talked among themselves. She was afraid she had insulted them or had done something wrong. She just couldn't figure out why they were so rude to her.

I went back to talk to my French coworkers (whom I knew quite well) and explained. They were agast. They told me "But we were talking about really boring things like what's going on with our children's school. She wouldn't have been interested at all in our conversation." They went on to explain that they knew each other from training. So in essence, not including the American girl was justified because;

-The nature of the conversation was personal
-The conversation itself had no interest to others
-Leaving the American coworker in peace was better than boring her with their own personal talk
-They knew each other really well so that justified talking together

I know it's cultural but I still find it rude, as I do many, many things here in France.

I always speak English to my kids but I try not to do it rudely. Though I was naughty the other day. A baby was crying and the mother kept shoving a pacifier in his mouth and wiggling the stroller in a doctor's office. How I hate that! My dd said "Oh look at the cute baby Mommy!" and I replied "Yes, and here in France, we can't PICK UP our child. When they cry, we just plug them with a pacifier and shake the stroller"...

Bad! I'm bad!!!
post #55 of 56
i feel like the only thing you can do to feel 'normal,' is to learn tamil yourself. i realize there may not be many resources to learn it, but learning any language takes consistency, patience, and YEARS upon YEARS to learn.

i understand how you feel about your husband not wanting to help you. DH speaks four languages fluently he picked up mostly by ear, so when i ask a question about a grammar point he gets annoyed and says i should learn myself like he did (not everyone is a language genius, though! pssh!). yet, he would get frustrated if i did not understand something i had never heard before. you can never win! haha!

took a lot of tears, humiliation, and a lot of guts, but i eventually know his language in an at least functional/practical way. took me years but i knew it wasn't impossible!

i plugged in learning tamil into google: (so many things came up!)

i know speaking the sounds may be hard, but that is mostly because your brain isn't used to the frequency/pitch of the sounds/pronunciations. also, your tongue muscles may not be so used to the positioning to produce those sounds. but, like every other muscle in your body, your tongue muscles will feel more natural after much practice and repetition.

post #56 of 56
Here's an interesting read on language:

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?

It's a bit long but for me, it kind of drives home the point that it is more than just a switch for us who have to choose between speaking in our native tongue and speaking a secondary language.
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